The most important thing to remember when you prepare a speech is to know who will be listening to you. A gathering of family and friends is far different from a roomful of college athletes, or the CEOs of major corporations. Your approach to how you will address an audience begins with what you know of them. Why are they gathered together? What commonality do they share? How much do they know about you and what you are going to speak about? What are their expectations? You can’t even know how long your speech should be without knowing the answers to these questions.
Understand your message
You are speaking before this crowd for a reason. Make sure that you clearly deliver your information to them. It is crucial that you not only are knowledgeable about your topic, but that you convey a specific message that you want them to walk away with. When an audience member goes home, you want them to be able to answer the question, “What was the speech about?”
Study the topic
Chances are, someone in your audience knows more about what you are going to talk about than you do. Get more familiar with your topic than you think is necessary. Research is fundamental to any good speech. You will end up sounding confident and sure, and that is always the hallmark of a good speech.
Facts alone do not make a speech. Your audience wants to feel that they know the person delivering it. Add humor, and personal stories and information to your speech. Given enough research, anybody can write about a subject. They have come to hearyou.
Organize your thoughts
A speech is anarrative. It is a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. You start with anintroduction, establishing the message, your credibility on the subject, and your personality. Then, you move into the heart of your tale. Make your points clearly, offeringexamplesandanecdotes. This is when you stress your passion and commitment to your topic. Finally,summarizeyour speech, so that your audience is brought back to your message, and you have given your words some finality.
Rehearse your speech many times. Listen to yourself say it. Try it out on a friend or loved one. Words on paper are quite different when compared with the spoken word. Did that sentence sound like you, or did it sound like some boring academic paper? Where should you put youremphasiswhen delivering a particular phrase or talking point? Did that last statement sound like the previous one? Did it even make any sense? Finally, how long is it? If you plan on a minute and a half for every double-spaced page of paper, then you should be able to adequately judge the length of your speech. This means that a five page speech is not going to be long enough if your audience is expecting an in-depth examination lasting 25 minutes. But, for goodness sake, don’t drag out your speech. The attention span for even the most devoted listener has its limits. Say what you need to say, say it well, and then sit down.